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Oct 28 2016

Operations Summary – Week of 10/24/16

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Progeny Mk2 Launch Anomaly – New Findings

A quick review: this past Wednesday during the launch of our first Progeny Mk2 rocket, an anomaly occurred 3 seconds after main booster ignition which caused the first stage to completely disintegrate. Launch controllers followed protocol and immediately armed the recovery chute in case the payload was flung from the rocket. However the second stage ignited itself and carried the payload away from the explosion. Unfortunately something caused the chute to deploy during the second stage booster firing, which ripped the chute to shreds and made recovery of the payload impossible.

After spending lots of time studying launch footage (you can see the stationary camera footage here) we have determined that the second stage in fact ignited prematurely on its own, which caused the first stage to overheat and explode shortly afterwards. This change in the order of events has led the investigation down a new path, away from looking closely at the first stage booster as the source of the anomaly.

We’re also still not sure why the recovery chute deployed prematurely. The nosecone is relatively intact as the payload truss took the full impact with the surface, so examination of the recovery chute mechanism is currently underway. We’ve also gathered up all debris and started to piece the rocket back together with what we have to determine what is missing and whether it was completely destroyed or lodged in something else.

The team leading the investigation does not expect results until later in November. In the meantime Lead Engineer Simon and his team on the Progenitor project are still in a detailed review of the entire Mk2 design process.

KerBalloon Launch Campaign Ends with Vehicular Accident

Of the 5 launches scheduled for our new KerBalloon probes, 4 made it off the ground and were also recovered successfully. However the fifth and final launch did not proceed as planned. Enroute to the launch site, the UTV carrying the KerBalloon unit rolled down a slope and caused enough damage to the unit that it was unable to be used for flight. This was an unfortunate end to an otherwise successful launch campaign that covered various biomes in the region around the KSC, collecting numerous data points on temperature and atmospheric pressure that meteorologists will be using to better understand the nature of Kerbin’s weather systems.

A unique aspect to these flights involved launches that occurred out of initial contact with launch control, something Flight Director Lanalye was not very happy about, but she was unable to secure additional funding to station an airship that could relay communications over the horizon. Still, there is a relatively steady flow of airship traffic between cities and the airship captains were more than willing to help pass along communiques as they went about their business.

We don’t currently have plans worked out for our next KerBalloon launch campaign, but additional units have been ordered.

Kerbin Targeted by an Asteroid

After sparking a minor panic at the beginning of this week by inadvertently announcing to the public a possible asteroid impact was imminent, the ATN cleared things up in a press release we covered earlier today. We don’t think it’s likely that the asteroid will make it to the surface intact, but even if it breaks apart in the atmosphere pieces of it should make it to the surface where they can be recovered for study. Regular denizens of Kerbin may be fearful of what’s coming, but scientists can’t wait to hopefully be able to peer into the past of our planetary system.

C7 Pushes Forward on Fixed Wing Development

In the gallery above you will see some of the progress C7 has made this past week on their Civvie fixed wing prototype, which continues to take shape in the HAB. We’ve also just received word that the decision has finally been made and the prototype will be fitted with wings over top of the canopy. Simulations have shown that this would be better for overall flight stability and it will also afford the pilots a much better view of the ground below.

Celestial Snapshot of the Week

Commander Val was pretty busy this week, but there also wasn’t much going on in the night sky. The planets are pretty spread out across the sky now, although Duna is slowly catching up to Jool. Just today though she managed to capture Mun occulting Minmus, which is a fairly rare event if you only observe from one location on the planet. She says she plans to photograph something else later tonight, but won’t say what.

Mun and Minmus are just 0.6 degrees apart

Mun and Minmus are just 0.6 degrees apart

From the Desk of Drew Kerman

Out of Character Behind the Scenes stuff

Written on 9/24/16

So the Mk2 launch anomaly was indeed a planned event, and it took me a few days to really decide how I wanted to go about doing it. It’s easy to make things explode in KSP, but it’s harder to make things explode in a way that you can then write a story about and have the reasons fit into the larger picture of what you’re trying to accomplish. So I couldn’t just have the whole thing blow up. I went through several methods of explosions, including the explosive that comes with Kerbal Inventory System. The problem with that is it requires a crew member to set and arm, so I needed to build a contraption to get a kerbal up near the rocket payload while it was mounted.

Val waves from atop her perch

Val waves from atop her perch

In the end that was too hard to control since I couldn’t use the staging system and had to set the timers on them. Eventually I just fell back to the simplest solution – having the lower stage blow up when the upper stage is triggered too early. That also fit perfectly with what I wanted the accident to push the Agency to do next. Nothing major, just a logical progression, but you’ll have to wait to see what that is.

Now, for the launch video I did spend a little bit of time on YouTube trying to source some rocket sounds and explosions but I just wasn’t feeling it. I really did want to add sound to the video but I’d rather spend time on other things to be honest. Hopefully one day the sounds in KSP will just be improved.

Last thing to talk about this entry is I spent some time today putting together an inventory spreadsheet in Excel to keep track of the parts I’m using and re-using. Very simple, I just record the amount of parts I’m using and the amount I’m regaining on recovery of the vessel. Good news is that even tho I came up with this two months into the program, all the parts balanced out and I never used anything I didn’t have. *phew*, saved myself some rewrites there. Now moving forward I don’t have to worry so much about it.

That’s it for this week, now to close out October in September and move on to November!